The unofficially official first half of the 2015 season is upon us, as today’s the last game before the All-Star Game and all its festivities. Here are some randomly collected thoughts on my mind as we make ready for the second half of the season.
1. How ’bout that offense? As of posting-time, the Yankees have a three game lead in the American League East. They’re second in the AL in runs scored; third in homers; fourth in OBP and SLG, and third in OPS. Despite some streakiness–which is prone to happening in baseball–this team has been pretty fun to watch. It’s a lot more fun when guys are hitting, no? Mark Teixeria’s resurgence has been a pleasure. Brian McCann is hitting like Brian McCann again. Brett Gardner is doing awesome things we didn’t necessarily think he could do. Jacoby Ellsbury had a great start before being injured. And let’s not forget Alex Rodriguez, who’s been serving up lots of crow for lots of people to eat so far. The Yankees only have three regulars–Stephen Drew (72), Didi Gregorius (74), and Chase Headley (86)–with below average OPS+ marks. Despite that, all three have had silver linings: Drew has 12 homers; Didi’s improved with each month; Headley has had productive stretches. Even Carlos Beltran, who looked pretty cooked early in the year, was on the way back to normalcy before being injured. After the disastrous offenses of 2013 and 2014, this one has been downright potent.
2. BIG MIKE: Let’s talk about Michael Pineda for a moment. He’s had an absolutely fantastic season and is starting to realize the potential the Yankees traded for when they dealt Jesus Montero for him. He’s in the top ten for wins (9; 4th place); BB/9 (1.100; 2nd); K/9 (9.395; 6th); strikeouts (111; 8th); and FIP (2.63; 4th). On top of all that, he leads the AL with a ridiculous 8.539 K/BB. He has more games of zero walks (seven) than he does of multiple walks (three, all of which featured just two walks). Like last season before he got hurt, Pineda’s starts are must-watch. Here’s hoping he can stay healthy to keep up this run in the second half, and hopefully the playoffs.
3. Playoffs? If you asked me in early April where I thought this team would be by the All-Star Break, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. I thought the Yankees would be okay this year–compete for a wildcard spot–but this is beyond what I expected. Even though they have just the fourth best record in the AL, this team does feel better than that at times. They have a lockdown bullpen and they can actually hit; the rotation may need some work, but this is still a good team. As we sit here on the verge of the trade deadline, I’m teetering on the edge of what the Yankees should do. Given the rotation woes we’ve seen through mid-July, it’s arguable that even if this team makes the playoffs, that rotation won’t get them far. This would lead us to believe that the Yankees shouldn’t jump on a trade for a starter–they’ve been good enough to get to this position without having to sell off future pieces, so why start now? At the same time, when I look at this team, I do see the potential for a deep October run.
A top five of Ellsbury/Gardner/Rodriguez/Teixeira/McCann is about as good as any team’s right now. If Beltran continues hitting well when back from injury and Chase Headley has a bit of a rebound, the lineup becomes all that deeper. On the pitching side of things, with Andrew Miller back and Adam Warren in the bullpen, a strong relief corps has just gotten stronger. Even the starting has potential in a short series: Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka combine to make a great pair at the top of any rotation. Adding one more pitcher to them could push the team towards banner number 28.
After today’s game, the Yankees have 35 road games left and 41 home games. That doesn’t seem like a big split, but for a team in a tight race that’s hit so well at home (.824 OPS) and so poorly on the road (.672), those five games could mean the difference between home games and away games in the playoffs, or missing them altogether. It’s been a great first half for the Bronx Bombers (isn’t it nice not to say that ironically anymore?) and hopefully it continues.